Lauren Weinstein's "Internet Freedoms" Interview
(Early *DRAFT* Transcript)
on "Coast to Coast AM" (2/17/2011)
Host: George Noory
(Early *DRAFT* Transcript)
Direct Link to Interview Audio (YouTube - Audio Only / ~30 minutes)
More Information About This Transcript
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About This Transcript
- - -
"Coast to Coast AM"
Lauren Weinstein's "Internet Freedoms" Interview
Host: George Noory
February 17, 2011
(DRAFT Transcript v0.2 - Most recent update 2/23/11 - 08:45 PST)
- - -
From the city of angels off the pacific ocean good morning good
evening wherever you may be across the nation around the world
I'm George Noory and welcome to coast-to-coast a.m.
the department of homeland security in an effort to clamp down on
websites that host and advertise child pornography inadvertently shut
down more than eighty four thousand innocent web sites across the
the DHS announced the seizure of ten domain names of web sites that
were believed to host or advertise child porn but one of those domains
was actually a DNS server that managed hosting up to eighty four
thousand separate and independent web sites
now what does this all mean
well in a moment we're going to talk with our expert Lauren Weinstein
in a moment on coast-to-coast am
and welcome back to coast-to-coast Lauren Weinstein has been involved
with the development of the internet for decades
Lauren is an expert regarding a wide range of privacy issues
Lauren i can't believe this eighty four thousand websites accidentally
yeah that's probably the start of what's going to be a long, sad saga
the way things are going.
it wasn't just shut down it's actually better than that the sites
actually got diverted to a DHS/ice web page that suggests that they
were involved in the distribution of child pornography
you can imagine how businesses felt about their customers running into
a page like that
that came to visit and this has been rectified now but there was
really no apology which seems appropriate because there was no due
process involved in the first place
so why would you expect an apology, right?
the dangerous part of all this Lauren is the ability to do this
And shut these down
This is a fundamental problem in the domain name system, it's a
central point of control and failure and we're seeing more and more
instances now where the US government by virtue of the fact that a lot
of this infrastructure is based here and the companies that control
the top level domains are based here
they're just turning things off as you can imagine the rest of the
world isn't really very pleased about that and there's those of us who
feel that the domain name system actually needs to be completely
replaced but obviously that's a very long-term problem
the real irony here is that at the same time this is going on and the
senate just within the last couple of days has been having hearings on
what's called the combating online infringement and counterfeits act
COICA which would greatly extend the government's power to shut down
it started out as something to combat counterfeit pharmaceuticals
counterfeit drugs but then it started having mission creep and now
it's turned into an intellectual property protection system so that if
a music music label or a movie studio was concerned
it would give them a way to turn off sites very quickly
and at the same time the FBI was testifying today that they want the
ability to have access to the encryption keys for virtually all
so it's all happening at the same time, and along with this we have
had for example secretary of state Clinton
just again within the last few days giving a speech about internet
freedoms. how the rest of the world needs to have internet freedoms
complaining about how Egypt turned off their Internet we all know that
story very recently with all the events in Egypt the government here
wants basically the same ability to turn off the us internet
isn't it strange they're talking out of both ends of their mouths
a little bit of hypocrisy there perhaps
Lauren, how close is this possibility of truly having the kill switch?
to disrupt the internet here would be much more complicated than doing
it in Egypt just because you have more providers and more routes.
but if you think about it, the concentration of isps in this country,
is such that most people, the vast majority of people are the
customers of just a handful of very large isps Verizon, at&t, Comcast,
time warner, so on.
if you go to them and say hey national security, turn off
you would be able to do a lot of disruption probably with a relatively
few phone calls in an hour
A lot of us use the internet almost all the time explain to us how
this works, kinda take us through, you know I'm beginning to envision
is there like a central building someplace in this country where
everything goes through and if you clip that, everything shuts down?
how does this all work?
well the internet by definition is a network of networks that's how
and by and large these networks are talking to each other
independently, but the thing is you have to have those junctions where
and those are places of vulnerability those places were one network
connects to another network
now how many places are there?
there's quite a few of them. and they operate with something called
the border gateway protocol which is used to route messages, in fact
that's how Egypt turned off their internet.
they basically deleted the routing table entries
But there is not a single building where everything goes through?
not that I know of and given the technology of the internet i don't believe
that exists but, effectively the DNS, the domain name system we were talking
about just a minute ago is so concentrated that if you just went to basically
VeriSign, VeriSign controls the registry for dot com
that's a big one they're going to control many many more
there's probably going to be a vast explosion of top-level domains now
primarily to enrich the the domain owners
It's going to also go now to .CO, right?
There already is a .CO. Within the next within the next couple months
ICANN, which is in charge of top-level domains at least the generic
ones are distributed, is set to approve a whole new system with
potentially hundreds maybe thousands of these
I'm very much opposed to this. I think it's just a money making for
what i call the domain industrial complex now.
And I think it's primarily going cause confusion for consumers. A lot
of people don't want it to happen
you're going to have litigation up the kazoo either from people who
say this domain makes it easier to do censorship or I didn't get
control of this domain, I wanted all the money from that domain. It's
going to be ... The lawyers are going to do well.
Now a company like goddaddy.com
How do they interact with all of this? What do they do?
Go Daddy is a registrar
So you go on there with a name they check it they put it up there on
their site right away whether it's available or not if it's available
you pay for right
Yeah and they pay a portion of what you pay at least in theory to the
registry that holds the data that's involved in that name
And they're just a go-between?
They're the point of contact for the consumer. They're the ones you
would pay the money to. You don't normally pay the money directly to
That's a simplification but it's close enough for jazz.
So you have a lot of people in the food chain of this who want to make
money on this and every time there's a new top-level domain that's
issued what you have is everybody that wants to protect their name
feeling obligated to register their domain name in all of these new
ones because does Disney want there to be a disney.gay? I don't know.
But there's a lot of talk now that there's going to be a dot-gay
domain a dot-ex-ex-ex domain. there's a lot of controversy about
dot-ex-ex-ex from all sides as you can imagine
All these different ones and everyone who has a trademark sort of feels
like they're being held to the wall by an Al Capone operative it's like
an old protection racket right? Hey, if you don't pay us someone is
going to take your name.
That's right. You need some protection here!
Yeah. Same thing. It's really a perfect storm that's occurring now
and we're seeing these symptoms we're seeing like ICE taking the 84,000
down and then saying oops - sorry about that! But really seriously
you know that I'm not an alarmist
No I know.
I try to be level-headed about these things I try to take it from a
technical standpoint but I have never been so concerned then about this
COICA "Coica" legislation. Because what it's trying to do is it's
trying to criminalize not only content on the Internet and remember
you're talking about
And who decides what is criminal and what isn't?
Well the thing about this legislation is is that it basically
eliminates most due process basically it's like just getting a quick
court order very simple it's not like there's a trial or anything
first to determine I mean it's obvious that's how they managed
to take down 84,000 just with a snap of a finger.
Who would make this decision?
You would have prosecutors going to a judge you would have those kinds
of entities going to a judge and saying we declare the FBI is very
much involved now in and the department of justice is being very
involved in intellectual property protection so we've sort of
conflated issues of security and safety with protecting movies and
Hold on for a second Lauren I want to talk more with you about this
and we'll open up the phone lines as well Lauren Weinstein our special
guest as we talk about shutting down the Internet on coast-to-coast
so you're concerned though Lauren, you really are. you're not
one who is an alarmist as you said but you're concerned about this
yeah, and what's particularly worrisome is that this new set, this
whole array of attacks on internet freedoms are bipartisan. these
things are coming out of committee in some cases unanimously all the
democrats all the republicans
It's a very very nightmarish kind of scenario. for those of us
who have built up the Internet over many many years to see this
and I'll give you another example of what's occurring here that could
change the Internet in ways that most people couldn't even imagine
part of the legislation that's being pushed now in the last few days
even is to essentially criminalize not only certain kinds of material
on the internet but linking to that material
there's a big push now to say that if google for example has a link to
something that has been declared to be illicit rightly or wrongly,
that google could be held responsible for that
and that they would have to censor their own links to prevent people
from finding the material that has been declared to be illicit or
now imagine what this means in an international context
we're talking about u.s. laws here but the internet is international
so that kind of situation is terrible.
what this basically does this has to do with the digital millennium
copyright act the DMCA
it established what's called the safe harbor which said that if
materials put on the net and a website was notified that the material
was infringing in some way for example on valid copyright the site had
to remove it
but what's happened now is a lot of the intellectual property holders
and unfortunately much of this is Hollywood and the music industry
which has really gotten control over the process
they're saying that's not good enough they want to be able to
preemptively stop these things from being posted
now imagine what that would mean for, not just google search listings,
but imagine what that would mean for something like YouTube
Oh, it would wipe them out!
Completely decimate it.
And this is not theoretical. This is not hypothetical.
This is, these are concepts now that are being pushed in a bipartisan
manner by Congress right now, into law, and there's virtually
no one in congress to stand up and say, hey, maybe internet freedoms
are more important.
Why not? Why not?
I think because there's not viewed as being a lot of political cost to
and remember you go to where the lobbying dollars are coming from
but the hypocrisy of this going on at the same time that we're being
critical of China and Egypt and making speeches about Internet
freedoms it's like something out of a Kafka novel.
it's just a complete mind-bender but this is all real. it's all
and for technologists like me it's a nightmare coming true.
Let's go to the phones.
Let's go to Skype
Julio's with us
Hey how are you guy's doing this evening?
Ah, thanks. I just got off a seventeen hour bus ride from mccoll,
Illinois, so this is the first thing I'm doing listening to you guys
i got a question
I'm a broadcasting major and I've been doing a lot of studying on the
FCC and i know that they have no legal authority to control the
internet cable or satellite for that matter so what can we the people
do to you know wake up others about the FCC and their power by decree
basically this breaking all the rules here how can we educate people
about what the FCC can and can't do
you're barking up the wrong tree. to be honest with you
I mean it can be argued from a legal standpoint the statutory
authority of the FCC but the FCC is small potatoes in all of this.
You're kinda referring to the net neutrality battle,
I'm in favor of of net neutrality because it has nothing to do with
censorship it has to do with making sure that ISPs treat everybody
but if you want to talk censorship if you want to talk nightmares look
at this other legislation look at what congress is doing. don't worry
about the FCC. that just vanishes into the distance in terms of
importance when you look at congress looking to fundamentally change
internet freedoms in a way that would give all the power to very
powerful moneyed interests and take them away from all the consumers
that is where people should be focusing their attention right now.
all right, thanks Lauren.
Let's go to bill in Toronto Canada
hey bill welcome to the program
Oh good morning gentleman. Thank you for taking my call. I have a few
few questions two of them are really quick and the third one is more
of a comment on what I am noticing here in Canada with censorship
So my first question is, when your DNS provider blocks a site so say
you do abc.com and nothing comes up
where it says it says it's forbidden or something because they've put
in a block
can you still get to that site with using the ip address if you knew
Yeah. all else being equal the answer is yes.
and in fact and that's why some of us are looking at alternatives not
just to get around that but whole different ways of structuring the
way you reach sites
the DNS can be bypassed.
OK so here's my second question which is really quick and then I have
the comment I want to make
do you know of a program that's already available and if it isn't
maybe somebody could write one or maybe one of the other listeners
could call in and let us all know
is there a program that could take all of your URLs lnk files that you
have stored of all of your websites and convert like read into it go
on the internet and go to each site get the real ip address and add it
to the name at the end of the link. if not it would be a great
program to write. i don't know how to program but
such things exist but they're of limited utility generally generally
because ip addresses are not necessarily static in that way. they can
change depending on where you are, they can change day to day as servers
come online and offline
so it's actually much more complicated than that but the principle is
sound at least theoretically
OK. so my one quick comment is that Australia has already implemented
internet censorship a couple years ago and what I'm noticing here in
Canada for example i use a proxy server so that I can mask my ip and
avoid a lot of problems that can happen when people get your ip
address so I go to a cafe that provides free wifi
and they use a company's services called opendns which you've probably
now what they do is they have a category called proxies servers and
anonymity identification and any site that they have on their list
which is almost all of them they block so that means you can't have
internet privacy when you are in one of these cafes because they've
blocked all access to those things
can you make a comment on that?
anytime there's public access, public access has become a major
concern to those who want to restrict internet access
and one of the ways that will probably be approached in the future is
another legislative thrust that's occurring right now here in the us
which is a trusted identities system that is being promoted this is as
a way to enhance online purchases of such by tying her internet
identities to your government issued identities like your social
security number here in the us for example.
But there are those of us that feel very strongly that that kind of
system would rapidly suffer mission creep
Oh yeah. That's dangerous.
and end up being pretty much a requirement to use a vast array of
so if you're forced to identify yourself to access the internet
ultimately it's not going to matter where you're doing it from they're
going to know who you are anyway.
let's go to Harrisburg Pennsylvania first-time caller Scott you're on.
How are you doing?
Good Scott, thanks.
yeah, my question is a few days before they reinstated the patriot act
or extended it
at my library the internet service went down for the whole county
there's about a dozen libraries
and i was wondering if they're possibly doing collecting data on
certain you know on certain things that you checkout
Naw. They're more likely running Microsoft software. And it does
things like that all the time on its own.
seriously those kinds of failures are almost always just technical
failures of the systems
anything at higher levels is not going to be so obvious
Nothing sinister there, huh?
Yeah, very unlikely.
All right, let's go to Idaho Falls. Bill, your turn on coast to
coast. go ahead bill.
good evening gentlemen
I'm sorry I didn't get on the beginning of this i didn't catch the
name of your guest
oh well glad to make your acquaintance, sir
i wanted to ask you. i was involved pretty early on in the internet
and also representing my site and we got a class B address by calling
somebody at USC, it was that long ago.
but anyway i wanted to ask why, the vision I had for DNS evolving was
that it would be a deeper structure for instance for airlines you
would have something like
delta dot air dot com and united dot air dot com or something similar
and so you would have an authority for air and authority for and it
would be spread it would be deeper cause the search times would be
and I was wondering why it didn't evolve that way
and the second question that you might be interested
a long time ago there was a standard called international standards
organization open systems interconnect ISO/OSI
and i experimented with that for awhile at that behest of my employer
and it was a disaster
but why didn't ISO/OSI, that was the official line for a long time and
x.400 mail was the official line for a long time in government
why was ISO/OSI largely a failure? except for the directory standard?
yeah okay i can i can answer both of those those pretty quickly
in terms of DNS addresses that it was envisioned at one point that it
would be more of a hierarchical structure
basically the commercial forces of domain names altered that that's my
dot com addresses became so valuable in and of themselves and now
domain addresses generally that people wanted to have that top-level
domain address and it made the addresses that were deeper in less
valuable because they were seen as second-class or third-class
i think that's the short answer to that.
the OSI model is actually kind of interesting x.400 and all of that
and i basically say that that died the death of committee
at one time the federal government here was actually mandating i mean
that the existing system the tcp/ip system that we use now was going
to be replaced by OSI type systems at least by the federal government
it just never happened. the reason was that they were arguing
continuously about the standards for OSI and tcp/ip just worked and
the fact that it worked allowed more and more people to use it and as
the arpanet became the internet and as the internet commercialized
tcp/ip became so embedded in the infrastructure that it was just
success through technology whereas OSI was failure through committee
You know Lauren we are so dependent on the internet now and wireless
communications everybody out there is twittering, facebook, social
what happens when it goes down?
well I think we saw an example of that in Egypt
that's something that has long been theorized and we saw the practical
effect of an entire country being cut off the internet and apparently
internet resources disrupted within the country also to a very large
and it's very dramatic
the financial losses to Egypt from that are enormous
I've seen all kinds of different numbers but we're talking many tens
of millions of dollars at least and probably much more ultimately.
and people had to resort, they were resorting to other mechanisms.
they were using cell-phones and such until the cell-phone networks were
cut off also
so we're kind of the victim of our own success to an extent here
because we've created these tremendous marvelous communication
infrastructures that do have ways of being disrupted
It will happen one day. Whether it's done by government or done
technically and there's some kind of mishap. It will happen.
I've had people say to me that the government would never do that here
because it would be so disruptive economically. I actually think that
that's a false assumption.
I think that if the government feels that it's threatened for whatever
reason i think attempting to control communications will come first
and economic considerations will come second.
i might be wrong about that, I actually hope I'm wrong about that, but
human nature being what it is i think that's a probable outcome if we
ever end up in that place.
No, I think you're absolutely right. let's go to Diane in spencer
east of the rockies. had some problems in Wisconsin today
hi Diane go ahead.
hi. I want to thank for your show and for all the people that you
you are welcome
excellent show I so love listening to you
OK, my question is now since you're talking about the government and
how they can come in and turn the computer off or they can look into
i have nothing that's illegal as far as any of the stuff that you can
get in trouble for but I'm very much into police information because I
have taken the class and I really enjoy that kind of stuff as far as
Crime. So you like to look at that stuff right?
Yeah. Yeah. And I did work with a missing persons group at one time
and always interested in what's going on as far as that and also ufo
information I'm very much into that
I happen to have, I like to collect the information
if you're going along and you wanna remember a certain website you
turn around a year or to later and you forget about it
Sure. so you're concerned that they may say, all right Diane, what
are you doing with all these things?
Right. can you get in trouble?
Well, the short answer is that would depend on what sort of
information you have
Oh no no no.
if everything you have is public information public domain information
then you're not likely to get into trouble in the current environment
I mean have you broken a law Lauren if you collect information on
serial killers because you're fascinated with their minds?
No. No. But, the way things are these days, if you ever found
yourself in trouble you might find some smart prosecutor after doing
forensic analysis of your computer saying look at this person -- look
at this stuff.
an obvious mental issue here!
this happens all the time now when there are crimes they go in
forensically and if they see a history of looking at certain sorts of
information that doesn't necessarily mean that that person is a
but that kind of information may be presented to a court may affect
prosecutions and can have a negative effect
Good point. let's take one more call Steve in Niagara falls Canada
let's squeeze you in here Steven go ahead
oh great. long time listener first time caller
great to be on the show
I just want to say that I think the internet as we know it today won't
even look like it looks today in ten years time i think it's changing
rapidly and you had mentioned that the government of Egypt had managed
to shut down the internet through erasing the routing tables
I was just kind of curious how that would be possible considering if
they're using border gateway protocol most of the routing tables are
dynamically learned and they're just going to repopulate again.
Oh you can kill them. You can definitely kill them you can pull them
out you can make sure that they don't come back for Egypt it was very
very straightforward it would be tougher for the us just because of
scale. I suspect if I was going to do it I would do it a different
way here, and if I can figure out a way to do it there's other people
who could not only figure out a way to do it but there's probably
plans somewhere to try to take control in some way if a national
security matter was declared.
and again there's legislation pending that's put under that
cybersecurity banner that is specifically designed to give federal
authority presidential control to declare that under certain
conditions certain parts of the internet or possibly the entire
internet this is something that's argued, could be shut down in some
whether it's done through border gateway protocol whether it's done by
calling the isps and saying pull your plugs, one way or another if the
government wants to do it given the concentration of resources we have
the way that so few isps are the isps for so many people it wouldn't
be at all impossible to cause major disruptions on the internet very
quickly if the government chose to do so
Lauren you are a wealth of information my friend you're like a walking
internet all by yourself. thank you. we'll be in touch
Lauren Weinstein our special guest this hour.
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